Downtown Fairborn needs development, WSU survey finds

New businesses, shops could draw college students.

Four key findings of the WSU survey

#1: Researchers found many Wright State students are unaware they actually live in Fairborn

#2: Nearly half of students surveyed said “there’s nothing fun to do” in Fairborn

#3: New businesses or a coffee shop would draw Wright State students to Fairborn

#4: More transportation options, information could boost student travel to downtown Fairborn

Many Wright State students are unaware they live in Fairborn, but even more said they’d use the city’s downtown if new shops and businesses filled store fronts, according to a new survey.

A team of Wright State University graduate students surveyed nearly 600 students on campus about their perceptions of Fairborn, the city where the campus is located. About 234 of those students lived on Wright State’s campus.

“Our project was based on how you draw students to the downtown area of Fairborn,” said first-year WSU graduate student Megan Holly. “We found that students actually think Fairborn has nothing fun to do.”

The survey found 48 percent of students living on campus think Fairborn isn’t fun. The researchers argue “a lack of information available to students” and “a lack of student-centric businesses” are part of the problem.

“I don’t think students know what’s in the downtown to begin with,” Holly said.

The results confirmed many things officials already knew about the city, but now leaders have data to back up their presumptions, said Rob Anderson, Fairborn’s economic development director.

“Those were things that we knew anecdotally,” Anderson said. “It sort of confirmed what we already knew, but it was eye opening too.”

Survey results of students living on campus found “almost one in four surveyed students do not recognize that Wright State University or Zink Road is within the city of Fairborn.” Researchers said this might be because Wright State has a Dayton ZIP code.

The students recently presented the results of the survey to city leaders. They also made recommendations about ways to draw students downtown.

“We recommended that downtown Fairborn have more late-night options for students,” Holly said.

Researchers found more than 80 percent of students would be likely to visit locally-owned stores or a movie theater downtown. Seventy-three percent of those students said they’d visit a coffee shop in downtown Fairborn, while 46 percent of students aged 21-30 said they would visit a brew pub downtown.

Transportation was also a major concern of the researchers, as the survey found nearly 30 percent of students living on the WSU campus were kept from visiting downtown for lack of a way to get there. About the same number of students said they would bike to downtown Fairborn, but nearly 60 percent of students living on campus didn’t know there is a bike path into the city.

Anderson said the city can now focus on developing more transportation options with the help of the university and Greene County officials.